Miss Clea Bradford
“Listen – My Love’s a Monster MP3″
A few weeks ago I got an e-mail that indicated that singer Clea Bradford had passed away. I was unable to confirm it until a few days ago when a reader posted a link to her obit. Bradford, who was 67 and was living in Maryland, had spent most of her career as a jazz singer, though the selection I’m reposting today reveals that she had her way with soul as well. ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is a personal fave and always has a spot in my DJ box.
I hope you dig the tune (I know you will) and I’ll see you all on Monday.
ORIGINALLY POSTED IN SEPTEMBER 2006
The record you’ll be hearing today was requested by one of our regular readers about a month ago. While the Funky16Corners blog isn’t a jukebox, I am not averse to taking (and honoring, when possible) requests for specific tunes. As long as I have a copy of said tune taking up space in my crates (and I remember where it is) I have no problem working it into the rotation. As I said on Monday, I’m usually selecting tunes to post sometimes a month in advance (husband and father type duties requiring that I condense my record-related work into short, intense periods of activity), so if someone makes a request, it may end up taking a little while to end up on yon blogspot, but it will get there.
The performer of today’s selection, Clea Bradford, is one I haven’t been able to find out much about. As far as I can tell she may have begun her career based out of St. Louis, Mo, where she often worked with the Quartette Tres Bien. She went on to record LPs for Prestige, Mainstream and Cadet through the 60’s, as well as 45s for the Tru-Sound and Hi-Q labels. The song I bring you today, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ was recorded for Cadet in 1968 and appeared on the LP ‘Her Point of View’.
The song is (much like Clea’s love) a monster. This is due in large part to the fact that it was co-written, arranged and produced by the legendary Richard Evans. During the 60’s and early 70’s, Evans – who started his career as a jazz bassist – produced and arranged a wide range of truly amazing records for the Cadet label. Like Charles Stepney (with whom he sometimes collaborated) Evans was one of the true “auteurs” of the Cadet sound, masterminding the Soulful Strings, and creating legendary recordings with the likes of Dorothy Ashby, Terry Callier, Marlena Shaw and Ramsey Lewis among others (for a deeper look at Richard Evans, follow this link to an article I wrote about him at the Funky16Corners web zine).
His recordings with Marlena Shaw – including crate digger classics like ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ and ‘California Soul’ – are an important reference point to ‘My Love’s a Monster’. Bradford – like Shaw – was essentially a jazz vocalist recording in a soul/funk frame of reference. Evans was a master of blurring the lines between jazz and funk, creating records that contained elements of both, often mixing big band brass with funky bass lines and breakbeats (not to mention unusual elements like kalimba and harp).
While the end result may be a little to polished for aficionados of the gritty funk 45, if you are a listener possessed of a certain taste and perspicacity, you are likely to find that once sampled, you are driven to seek out more of the same.
Opening with a brass flourish, followed by the rhythm section laying down a funky groove, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is in all aspects a BIG record. Bradford’s vocal is strong and assured, and the brilliant production manages to keep her voice out front, even while the instrumental track is absolutely booming. I love Bradford’s near-scatting in the breakdowns leading into the chorus remind me of Solomon Burke’s similar performance in 1966’s “Keep Looking”.
While I can’t say with any certainty who’s playing on this 45, I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s the usual suspects, i.e. the Chess/Cadet house band, and as always, they do an amazing job. The lead guitar is outstanding – dig how it keeps popping up in the mix – and the drums are hard as hell.
As far as I can tell ‘My Love’s a Monster’ has not been comped, which is at least to me, incomprehensible. This is sister funk of the first order, a party starter, floor filler etc, and for a record like this to be overlooked is nothing short of criminal. One group of people who hasn’t overlooked it is DJ-types, which might explain why it’s not a cheap 45, but not overly expensive either ($25 – $35 bucks seems to be the going rate). The LP (which I’ve heard may have a different mix of this tune) is also find-able in a similar price range. Hopefully someone out there with the wherewithal will put together a comp of Richard Evans productions, and include this track. In any event, as I just gave myself the idea, I’ll make sure to put together an episode of Funky16Corners radio highlighting that material. Look for it this Fall.
PS Johnny Sayles has a tune called ‘My Love’s a Monster’ (which I’ve never heard), but since it came out in 1965 (on the Chi-Town label) , and the Clea Bradford record was co-written by Bradford and Richard Evans, I’m guessing it’s a different song. If anyone knows different, please let me know.